Math Placement Test Guide

The Purpose of the Placement Tests

Notre Dame de Namur University will use the Mathematics Placement Test (MPT) to place you into the mathematics course most appropriate for you at this time. Take the test seriously because a low placement may mean extra cost and extra time in college. You want the right placement so that you can succeed in your first course, but so that you do not have to take extra courses.

The Types of Tests

The three math tests are Arithmetic Skills, Elementary Algebra and College-Level Mathematics. You may be given one, two or three tests, depending on your responses at the time of testing. All three tests consist of multiple-choice questions.

Test Administration

The MPT is administered on a computer. You will read the instructions on the computer screen and mark your answers using the mouse or the keyboard. NDNU uses the ACCUPLACER adaptive tests, which were developed by the College Board, with the help of committees of college faculty, to provide information about the mathematics skills that are required for success in college.

Score Reporting

When you have completed the tests, you may see a report of your scores on the screen and you may receive a printed report of your scores. You should bring the printed report to your advising appointment.

Your individual score report will include the Total Right Score and Percentile Rank.

The Total Right Score shows how many of the questions you could expect to answer correctly if you took a test made up of 120 questions.

The Percentile Rank compares your score with the scores of typical students entering college who completed tests composed of similar questions. For example, a percentile rank of 70 means that your score is higher than the scores of 70 percent of the students who completed the test.

Special Arrangements for Students with Disabilities

If you have a disability or temporary disabling condition that will prevent you from taking the test under standard conditions, please inform the test administrator before taking the test.

What to Take with You to the Tests

On the day of the test, you should be sure to take your student ID number and pencils with erasers.

Testing Regulations

Textbooks, notebooks, dictionaries, calculators or other papers of any kind (except scratch paper provided by the test administrator for use with the mathematics tests) are not allowed in the testing room. Further, anyone who gives or receives help during the test, or uses notes or books of any kind, will not be allowed to continue the test. Following the test period, no test materials or notes may be removed from the room. We may cancel any test score if there is any reason to question its validity. Before canceling a score, we may offer you the opportunity to take the test again.

Computer Delivered Testing

You will take the test using a computer. You will use the keyboard or mouse to enter your answers and to supply other information. A test administrator will always be present should you have any questions or problems.


ACCUPLACER does NOT permit the use of personal calculators on the Math portion of placement test. ACCUPLACER expects students to be able to correctly answer certain questions without the assistance of a calculator. However, there are some questions for which the test provides an onscreen calculator. Students should prepare by taking practice tests without calculators.

Adaptive Testing

Each test is adaptive. This means that the computer automatically determines which questions are presented to you based on your responses to prior questions. This technique selects just the right questions to ask without being too easy or too difficult.

Each test is un-timed so that you can give each question as much thought as you wish. However, once you have selected and confirmed your answer, you cannot return to that question.

Answering the Questions

Because you take the tests on a computer, you don’t have to answer as many questions as on traditional paper-and-pencil tests. The number of questions on the tests ranges from 12 to 25. The questions appear one at a time on the computer screen. All questions are multiple choice and you only need to use the mouse to select an answer. When you have completed the question and confirmed your answer, a new screen will appear with your next question.

At the Beginning of the Test

You will be asked to enter some personal information such as your student ID, name and address. You will also be asked to confirm that you agree to follow the testing rules and conditions for the ACCUPLACER program.

Then several background questions will appear on the screen. A typical background question is:

Years studied mathematics in high school
What is the total number of years you studied mathematics in high school (grades 9-12)? Count less than a full year of mathematics as a full year, but do not count a repeated year of the same course as an additional year of study.
One year
Two years
Three years
Four years
More than four years

Finally a series of screens will introduce you to the tests themselves.

Every test will be preceded by one or more sample questions that will familiarize you with the types of questions in that particular test. These sample questions are not scored. When you have completed these, you will begin with the actual test questions. You are shown the correct response for the sample question only.


You should understand that this is an adaptive test. Questions are chosen for you on the basis of your answers to previous questions. Because the test works this way, you must answer every question when it is given. You cannot skip any question or come back later to change an answer.

You may change your answer to a particular question, but you must do so before confirming it and continuing onto the next question. If you do not, the answer is accepted and you cannot return to the question.

If you do not know the answer to a question, try to eliminate one or more of the choices. Then pick one from the remaining choices.

At the End of the Test

At the end of each test, you will either see a page indicating that you have completed all the testing or one indicating the test that you have just completed followed by the next test you will take.

Preparing for the Tests

In general, any math books on elementary algebra at the level of first year high school algebra should be suitable to prepare for the elementary algebra test and any arithmetic books should be suitable to prepare for the arithmetic test. Two books that have been used successfully in the past are Quick Arithmetic by Carman and Carman, or the more extensive Basic Math and Prealgebra (Cliffs Quick Review) by Jerry Bobrow. Note that these texts are reviews; those learning the material for the first time will want a textbook or course.

Description of the Tests

Arithmetic Test

This test measures your abilities in three primary categories. The first is operations with whole numbers and fractions. This includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, and recognizing equivalent fractions and mixed numbers.

The second category involves operations with decimals and percents. It includes addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, as well as percent problems, decimal recognition, fraction and percent equivalencies, and estimating problems.

The last category involves applications and problem solving. Questions include rate, percent, and measurement problems; geometry problems; and distribution of a quantity into its fractional parts. A total of 17 questions are asked.

Elementary Algebra Test

There are also three categories in the Elementary Algebra Test. First, operations with integers and rational numbers include computation with integers and negative rational, the use of absolute values, and ordering.

The second category is operations with algebraic expressions. This tests your abilities with the evaluation of simple formulas and expressions, and adding and subtracting monomials and polynomials. Both of these categories include questions about multiplying and dividing monomials and polynomials, the evaluation of positive rational roots and exponents, simplifying algebraic fractions, and factoring.

The third category tests abilities in equation solving, inequalities, and word problems. These questions include solving systems of linear equations, solving quadratic equations by factoring, solving verbal problems presented in algebraic context, geometric reasoning, translating written phrases into algebraic expressions, and graphing. Twelve questions are presented.

College-Level Mathematics

The College-Level Mathematics test assesses proficiency from intermediate algebra through precalculus. Six categories are covered. Algebraic operations includes simplifying rational algebraic expressions, factoring, and expanding polynomials, and manipulating roots and exponents.

The category of solutions of equations and inequalities includes the solution of linear and quadratic equations and inequalities, equation systems, and other algebraic equations.

Coordinate geometry asks questions about plane geometry, straight lines, conics, sets of points in the plane, and graphs of algebraic functions.

Applications and other algebra topics asks about complex numbers, Series and sequences, determinants, permutations and combinations, fractions, and word problems.

The last category, functions and trigonometry, presents questions about polynomial, algebraic, exponential, logarithmic, and trigonometric functions. Twenty five questions are asked.


Your test scores and information you provide when taking the tests will only be provided to Notre Dame de Namur University, and to the College Board. The information may be used for counseling, advisement and placement purposes. It may also be used by the College Board for research and training purposes. Your test information will not be disclosed for any other purpose without your permission. If you have any questions about confidentiality, please see your Test Administrator.

For Further Information

  • See the Math Placement Test page for pre-test math review options.
  • Math placement tests for new students are part of orientations.  For dates and information on 2017 orientations, click here.
  • If you have questions or if you are a continuing student who needs to schedule a placement test, contact
  • For questions about post-test advisement, math course recommendations, and placement test policies, contact